Poetry by Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me, and be my love;             

And we will all the pleasures prove

That hills and valleys, dales and fields,

Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,

Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks

By shallow rivers, to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses

And a thousand fragrant posies;

A cap of flowers, and a kirtle

Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool

Which from our pretty lambs we pull;

Fair-lined slippers for the cold,

With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy-buds,

With coral clasps and amber-studs:

And if these pleasures may thee move,

Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing

For thy delight each May-morning:

If these delights thy mind may move,

Then live with me and be my love.


It is generally believed that the great Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564–’93) was also a government spy, but much about his life is shrouded in mystery. In 1587, Marlowe’s first major theatrical work,
Tamburlaine the Great, was performed. Over the course of a six-year period he wrote The Jew of Malta, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus and several other plays in which he perfected the use of blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) for the theater, a practice that was continued by his contemporary, William Shakespeare. Although suspected at one time or another of atheism, heresy, homosexuality and murder, Marlowe managed to avoid imprisonment. His death, like much of his life, is shrouded in mystery: he might have been stabbed by his close friend Ingram Frizer in an argument over a dinner check or his death might have had something to do with either his or Frizer’s career as a government spy. Marlowe remains one of the major literary figures of Elizabethan England. Raleigh’s response to this poem will appear in this column next week.

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